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Stacy Brown-Philpot of TaskRabbit, a company that hires freelancers to do odd jobs, is the first to admit that she doesn’t look like most CEOs in tech. And as one of the few black women CEOs in Silicon Valley, she’s making it her mission to change the landscape, beginning with her own business.
“I’m focusing on changing the face of technology by creating a diverse company where people feel they can bring their whole selves to work,” Brown-Philpot recently told Know Your Value.
Brown-Philpot refers to her staff of 200 as “unicorn employees” who possess a unique set of qualities that are rare and extremely valuable to an organization. Since Brown-Philpot began at TaskRabbit in 2016, she has created a diverse and inclusive workplace. Today, 60 percent of the company’s leadership is women, 48 percent of its employees are Hispanic, African-American, Asian or two or more races and 16 percent identify as LGBTQ.
TaskRabbit’s mission is to make everyday life easier for people, and the platform has grown to incorporate more than 70 metro areas across four countries so far, saving Americans more than 4 million hours of time. The "taskers" themselves earn an average of $34 per hour, which is five times the U.S. minimum wage. Some of the most common tasks include moving household items, assembling furniture, cleaning and doing minor home repairs. However, some of the more unique tasks have included helping to plan an anniversary surprise and even helping a customer find a lost pet cockatoo.
Here are five key steps that Brown-Philpot has taken to ensure that she’s leading TaskRabbit on a diverse and inclusive path.
Lead by example
As a student in Detroit, Brown-Philpot decided to study and pursue a career in accounting because of an exceptional high school accounting teacher who made a lasting impression on her. “Very rarely as a black woman do you have really good black teachers, and this teacher was amazing,” she said. Brown-Philpot has since moved on from accounting, but the lesson about the importance of mentorship has stayed with her. Brown-Philpot said she helps other women and minorities to see themselves in a management position and aspire to join the C-suite someday.
Be clear about what you’ll need to make your role work
Before joining TaskRabbit, Brown-Philpot worked for Google and was asked to run the company’s sales operations in India just around the time she was beginning to think about starting a family with her husband.
She accepted the challenge, but said that she was very specific in her asks to ensure that she could make the experience work for her even though her husband wasn’t in a position to relocate. These negotiations involved being sure she had enough time off and the company could cover expenses for her husband to visit her during the time they were living in separate countries.
The couple spent one year apart. “It was a lesson learned about not being afraid to ask for what you need to make your whole life, not just your work life, work for you,” she said.
Continually refine your leadership skills
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg was a mentor of Brown-Philpot, and she shared with her the importance of continually working on leadership skills to put yourself in a position where you can reach the top and lead a company on a successful path. However, this rule applies to people in all positions, whether they’re managing just one or two people or a huge team. Sandberg also encouraged Brown-Philpot to seek opportunities where she could demonstrate her management skills. Often, this involved taking risks and acquiring new skill sets.
Bring your whole self to work
This piece of advice is a key driver for Brown-Philpot. She’s a firm believer that bringing your whole self to work and giving your job your all when you’re there is an invaluable quality and will surely set yourself up for future success.
Seek out companies that value diversity
To that end, seek out companies that value diversity and that actually allow you to bring your whole self to work, Brown-Philpot encouraged. Take a look at the people in management positions and observe how diverse they are, and don’t be afraid to ask about the company’s policies during the application process. “Join a company that really values diversity and inclusion,” Brown-Philpot said. “Only then can you achieve your highest potential.”